by Emma Slater
Over the weekend of 31 August-01 September 18 drivers, representing four different nations, competed at the Junior UIM GT15 World Powerboat Championships held at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham.
Zujenkov Wins UIM GT15 World championship Crown
To kick start the weekend the UK’s Ben Jelf threw down the first challenge by snatching pole position with a blistering qualifying lap and securing prime position on the start grid ahead of Estonia’s Paul Zujenkov and fellow Brit Thomas Mantripp.
As the 18 boats lined up for the first heat of the competition, Jelf, Zujenkov and Mantripp were evenly matched in what can only be described as a drag race to the first turn. Jelf eventually gained the upper hand and pulled a good lead from the rest of the field, only for disaster to strike when his boat hooked as he hit a rogue wave and Jelf found himself helpless to stop the boat from missing the turn.
Despite knowing that he would be penalized, Jelf continued to race hard and Zujenkov and Mantripp continued the chase. Elsewhere in the race the UK’s Jess Beaumont had issues of her own when she lost all power on her engine and ended up parked on the beach, watching the race from the sidelines. Other drama included an over enthusiastic maneouvre from Norwegian driver Michelle Knudsen into the top turn which saw her collide with Estonian, Sken Heidemann.
Sunday welcomed a new start and the drivers got straight down to business with heat 2 and an itchy trigger finger got the better of Tiegen Goodfellow, who jumped the start. Not too be put off by this, Paul Zujenkov took the lead from the start with Thomas Mantripp snapping at his heels and pushing him in second. Elsewhere in the race, Ben Jelf carved his way through the field after starting from 16th position to finish third and Jess Beaumont finished eighth from 18th on the start grid.
Heat 3 saw the point’s situation wide open and again the driver lined up on the grid for yet another 7-lap race. Paul Zujenkov battled hard with Thomas Mantripp for first place around the turn, with Zujenkov just having the edge over Mantripp and retaining his lead. Jelf suffered more bad luck when a faulty starter meant that he was left far behind on the dock whilst everyone else, left him in their wake.
After eventually being manually started by his crew, Jelf joined the race and managed to drive himself into fifth place and whilst overtaking for fourth place, parked his boat in-between two turn buoys, resulting in him being disqualified for causing a red flag. Zujenkov won the heat followed by Thomas Mantripp in second and an exceptional drive from the UK’s Charlotte Newton which saw her take fifth.
As the fourth and final heat of the competition got underway, Zujenkov knew he had already bagged enough points to secure the championship, but Thomas Mantripp had other ideas about settling for second when Zujenkov made the first of a few errors which saw Mantripp pile the pressure on him to try and take the lead. Despite a few good attempts, he couldn't quite manage it and Zujenkov went on to take the heat win ahead of Mantripp in second.
Elsewhere in the heat, Norwegian Drivers Daniel Andersson and Michelle Knudsen were battling for fifth and sixth place whilst Ben Jelf once again drove from 18th place into fourth to do battle with Sken Heidemann for third position, a battle that would last all the way over the finish line with a ‘photo finish’ that saw Sken just keeping the edge to hold onto third in front of an air-bourne Jelf.
Behind all of the drama of the front pack, Tom Yallop fended off the challenges of Charlotte Newton and Jonathan Brewer to maintain eighth position.
Paul Zujenkov claimed the Gold medal in the GT15 World Championships after taking all four heat wins with the UK’s Thomas Mantripp awarded a much deserved Silver Medal for a faultless drive all weekend with Sken Heidemann being awarded the Bronze Medal.
As an extra special touch to an already prestigious event, Thomas Mantripp was awarded the ‘Atlantis Trophy’ as the highest placed British Driver in the GT15 World Championships. The Atlantis has a great history behind it with many legendary names being awarded with it in the past. The solid gold masterpiece was returned to its secure location after being awarded to Thomas at the Nottingham event.
An extremely exciting and entertaining spectacle was witnessed at the GT15 World Championships and every single competitor can be very proud of what they achieved.
Poewrboat GP website